Obukan Kendo Club
Obukan Kendo Club is non-profit organization part of the Pacific Northwest Kendo Federation (PNKF), which is a member of the All United States Kendo Federation.
If you are interested in joining Obukan Kendo Club, first-timers should see our beginners class page and those with experience should refer to our joining Obukan page.
The Obukan Kendo Club is an outgrowth of the Obukan Judo Dojo which began with demonstration of Kito-ryu Jujutsu given by Bunzaemon Nii and an unknown opponent at the Lewis & Clark Exhibition of 1905. When the Portland Judo Club was formed in 1926, Nii sensei was chosen as the first instructor.
Following the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, Dr. Jigoro Kano, judo’s founder, visited Oregon while touring the United States and insisted that the Portland club call itself “Obukan” (央武館). The “O” (央) refers to Oregon; Oregon was called “O-shu” or O-state by Japanese immigrants. The “Bu” (武) means martial training. And the “Kan” (館) means building or training hall. A separate kendo club was formed in Gresham during this period of time. The “G T Dojo” for Gresham-Troutdale, was organized by Sueo (Buddy) Ikata with Odate sensei, a 2 dan from Japan, as head instructor.
In 1936 the Portland Kendo and Judo Club began practicing in the Foster Hotel on NW 3rd under Jiro Sakano (kendo) and Mochizuki sensei (judo). Years later, Sakano Sensei was still active in kendo at 80+ years of age in the San Mateo Dojo in California.
A third club operated in the Mayport area. Among the early competitors was James Onchi, present Chief Instructor of Obukan Judo in North Portland.
Kendo practice was halted with the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. Following the war, Obukan Judo was restarted in 1954.
In the early spring of 1980, Obukan Judo Sensei Al Mar and Chief Instructor Jim Onchi contacted Stephen Strauch with the purpose of re-establishing the Obukan Kendo Club in Portland at the Obukan Judo Club’s Lombard Street Dojo. Strauch Sensei, a kendoka from Hawaii and a student of Shuji Mikami and his son Yoshiharu at the traditional “Shiseikan Dojo” in Kapahulu, agreed and began teaching with the aid of several of his students from Portland Kendo, a club he and Tomotsu Osada Sensei had formed in 1975.
The Obukan Kendo Club itself was formally re-established during a meeting between Obukan Judo Club board members including Al Mar, Jim Onchi, Buddy Ikata, Stephen Strauch and several pre-WWII kendoka. During the meeting, Strauch Sensei listened to the hopes and wishes of these men to re-establish Obukan Kendo as an honored dojo and a part of the community again. Strauch Sensei accepted the obligations placed upon him and keeps true to them today by continuing his involvement as one of Obukan’s Sensei.
The Obukan Kendo Club began practicing in various locations under the leadership of James Onchi, Buddy Ikata, and Steven Strauch. Practice locations included the Obukan Judo Dojo on North Lombard Street and Portland State University. While at PSU teaching duties were shared between Strauch Sensei and Seijin Kamegawa Sensei.
Between 1984 and 1986 the Obukan Kendo Club grew in large part thanks to Ken Strawn. Strawn Sensei has since returned to his home in Charlotte, NC where he continues teaching kendo.
After practice ended at PSU in 1984, Strauch Sensei and Al Mar together located additional practice locations at the Milwaukee Grange and in Mount Scott Community Center Roller Skating rink before settling the club at the Rivers Edge Health Club in Lake Grove in the Lake Oswego area.
During this period a stand out kendo man arrived on the Portland scene, Yutaka Katae. At 25 years old and 5 dan he showed many people in the Pacific Northwest what kendo was like at the higher competitive levels. Katae sensei arrived at U of O in Eugene in 1985 but drove up to Portland for keiko. The commute eventually became too much each week so he moved to Portland and became a great asset to the club. Katae Sensei was a former Team Captain at Chuo University in Tokyo and showed his awesome kendo at regional tournament taikai.
After winning every taikai he entered between 1985-1990 he has left a legacy at Obukan. Now working and living in his native Nagasaki, Japan he has maintained contact with Obukan in the years since his stay in Portland.
In November of 1986, Robert Stroud Sensei arranged to start practicing at the Oregon Dance Academy behind Sunset High School. At this site the club continued to grow and promote kendo. After the ODA site closed in 1995, the club found a new home at the Greenburg jazzercise and held classes there until 2005 when it moved to its present home at the Conestoga Recreation Center.
Practice sites during the 1990’s have included; Vicki Mills Dance Studio, the Hillsboro Grange Hall, and McMenamins Kennedy School. Most recently a class has been added at Richmond Elementary School in SE Portland. The Oregon State University Kendo Club is the third Obukan site in Oregon and has grown greatly during the early 2000’s, in large part thanks to Kent Enfield’s efforts.
Obukan Thailand is being taught by past Obukan member Eiji Osato Sensei in Chaing Mai Thailand and the Chaing Mai International School. Another past member from Obukan Katsumi Onaru sensei is in Bankok Thailand and remains active in kendo there.
After a lengthy stint as Obukan’s Head Instructor, Robert Stroud relocated to his native Idaho in July, 2004 where he remains actively involved in Kendo at the Idaho Kendo Club (Idaho Kendo Club). His personal motto “train hard and have fun” will be remembered for a long time to come and will no doubt continue to influence scores of Obukan members in the future.
John Hancock serves as Obukan’s current Head Instructor.